Racism, The Royals, and “The RAN”

posted by Christopher Herrera

It’s not often that Rainforest Action Network gets swept up in a royal scandal. In fact, let’s say never — until now, that is.

Spurred by an article in a British tabloid, there has been a flurry of news coverage this past week focused on Prince Harry, his partner Meghan Markle, and climate change. RAN is mentioned because the article cites Banking on Climate Change 2019, RAN’s influential annual study on the financial industry’s key role in fueling our climate crisis.

These news articles ostensibly center around the apparent hypocrisy of the royal couple. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made multiple public statements highlighting the severity and urgency of our looming climate catastrophe. However, in early February they were reportedly special guests — and by some accounts handsomely paid guests — at an exclusive event hosted by JPMorgan Chase in Miami. RAN’s data has revealed that JPMorgan Chase is the biggest funder of fossil fuels and fossil fuel expansion by a wide margin. Simply put, Chase is the world’s worst banker of climate change.

As these articles state, campaigning against climate change while accepting money from Chase is “not the best look.” Racist tabloid harassment, however, is also “not the best look.”

When Rainforest Action Network was contacted for a response on this story, we declined. That’s because we acknowledge that certain tabloids and popular media outlets routinely trade in disreputable and racist content. Just a few years ago the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) specifically called out several British tabloids for “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology.

Specifically, the sensationalist coverage of the Duchess of Sussex from the tabloids and other media has been especially egregious — citing her “exotic DNA,” claiming she was “(almost) straight outta Compton,” and comparing their child to a chimpanzee.

There are clearly multiple factors at play here. It is admirable for a royal couple to use their significant public profile to highlight the critical threat of climate change. And it would be hypocritical to accept money from Chase in light of the financial giant’s role in this crisis. But it is hard to separate the tabloids’ criticism of hypocrisy from their relentless — and often racist — harassment of the royal couple.

More importantly, if hypocrisy on climate change is the topic, then JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is the headline. Jamie Dimon has publicly supported the Paris Climate Accords — yet his company has pumped $196 billion into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement. Jamie Dimon has claimed he absolutely disagrees with President Trump for pulling out of the Paris Agreement, yet in the three years after Paris, Chase’s fossil fuel funding was almost a third more than that of the second worst bank, Wells Fargo.

Jamie Dimon is the CEO of the biggest bank on Wall Street, and the biggest fossil bank in the world. He can make a massive impact on the future of the climate. He can make sure his bank respects the human rights of Indigenous communities impacted by fossil fuel extraction. He can make a real choice to be a climate leader instead of a business-as-usual opportunist.

It is encouraging to know that Chase has rightly become synonymous with climate change. It is rewarding to see RAN’s research and analysis being cited as the report of record when it comes to the financing of fossil fuels. And as rule we rarely “decline to comment” when contacted by journalists (note to journalists everywhere: We are Rainforest Action Network, or RAN — not ‘The’ Rainforest Action Network; and certainly not “The RAN”).

But we will not participate in racist smears.

We will, however, participate in calling out hypocrites. Coincidentally, at the same time Harry and Meghan were in Miami, we were with a team of Florida allies just a few hours north in Palm Beach — once again calling out Jamie Dimon for his hypocrisy and demanding that JPMorgan Chase stop bankrolling planetary disaster.

Because profiting off climate chaos is the real scandal.